McGreal finds Facey too hot to handle

FORMER Ipswich Town defender, John McGreal, endured an evening to forget in a trial game for Colchester United during last night's pre-season friendly at Gillingham.

By Carl Marston

FORMER Ipswich Town defender, John McGreal, endured an evening to forget in a trial game for Colchester United during last night's pre-season friendly at Gillingham.

McGreal was at fault for Gillingham's first and third goals, perhaps suffering from a lack of match fitness after being released by Championship rivals Burnley at the end of last season.

The 35-year-old centre-half, who played 150 first-team games for Ipswich between 1999 and 2004, found striker Delroy Facey too hot to handle.

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New signing Facey, recruited from Rotherham, netted after seven and 51 minutes, sandwiching a goal from Aaron Brown just before half-time.

Liverpool-born McGreal was caught in possession for the Gills opener, and then hauled down Facey to concede a penalty early in the second period. He was substituted shortly afterwards.

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McGreal is on the look-out for a new club, and had spent the last couple of days training with the U's.

Manager Geraint Williams is currently searching for a suitable replacement for Wayne Brown in the heart of defence, and he will not be an easy act to follow. McGreal certainly looked off the pace at Priestfield.

This was a very disjointed display from Colchester, who were well beaten by their League One hosts.

Clive Platt pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute, with his third goal of the pre-season campaign, but a complete mis-kick from substitute keeper Mark Cousins enabled Gary Mulligan to grab a fourth for the Kent side almost immediately.

Johnnie Jackson headed home Mark Yeates' cross, with three minutes remaining, to at least give the score an air of respectability.

But there is still a lot of work to do for the Essex club, before the new season begins on Saturday week.

The visitors actually started brightly and Gills centre-half Efe Sodje, who made three appearances for the U's in 2000, headed narrowly over his own bar from Mark Yeates' dipping cross after just two minutes.

But it was Gillingham who took the early initiative, thanks to an opening goal from summer signing Facey on seven minutes.

Facey benefited from a slip by McGreal, who lost the ball and was powerless to prevent the powerful striker from homing in on goal.

Dean Gerken got both hands to Facey's stinging effort, but the ball still looped into the far corner of the net.

Platt was close to equalising in the 17th minute. The ex-MK Dons striker climbed high to meet Kevin McLeod's teasing cross with a towering header that whistled only a foot over the top.

A minute later and Gerken was forced into an instinctive save.

Gary Mulligan burst past the U's defence, latching on to Brown's through ball and trying his luck with a shot that Gerken was again only able to divert skywards.

This time Danny Granville was on hand to make a headed goal-line clearance.

The flurry of scoring opportunities continued. McLeod's ferocious long-range shot was destined for the roof of the net, until Gills keeper Simon Royce intervened with a desperate fingertip save.

From Jackson's ensuing corner, triallist McGreal lunged forward to head narrowly wide at the far post.

United were not at their best for the remaining 20 minutes of the first period.

Gillingham certainly posted the bigger threat and Gerken had to perform acrobatics to keep out Brown's 20-yard drive on 42 minutes.

But Gerken was again beaten as Brown doubled the Gills lead in the 44th minute.

Winger Brown, the former Bristol City stalwart, hooked home at the far post with neither Gerken nor skipper Duguid able to stop the ball from rolling into an unguarded net.

Substitute keeper Cousins replaced Gerken at half-time, but the U's teenage keeper was soon picking the ball out of the net as Facey netted his second and the Gills third, thanks to a 51st minute penalty.

Facey both earned and converted the penalty.

Triallist McGreal wrestled the powerful Facey to the ground, inside the box, and the ex-Huddersfield and Tranmere striker then picked himself up to ram home the spot kick.

A minute later and an unhappy McGreal received a stern lecture from referee Clive Penton, after again felling danger-man Facey, this time outside the box.

And McGreal's unfortunate evening was brought to a close when he was withdrawn in the 58th minute, to be replaced by young substitute Tom Devaux.

The U's rallied. Royce did well to beat away Duguid's goalbound shot, before Platt reduced the arrears with his third goal of the pre-season campaign in the 63rd minute.

Following up his previous goals at Heybridge and against a Liverpool XI, Platt volleyed home Yeates' low cross from eight yards out.

But a glaring error from Cousins handed Gillingham a fourth goal on a plate just two minutes later.

Cousins completely missed his kick, allowing Mulligan to literally walk the ball into an empty net.

Jackson netted a consolation goal for the U's in the 87th minute.

The former Tottenham midfielder steamed in to head home Yeates' cross.

This was the U's first defeat of their pre-season programme. They are back in action at Bromley this evening, before hosting Bolton on Saturday.

GILLINGHAM: Royce, Southall (sub Clohessy, 65), Cox, Armstrong (sub Bryant, 80), Sodje (sub King, 75), Brown (sub Hamilton 69), Crofts, Bentley (sub Cogan, 80), Lomas (sub Stone, 65), Facey (sub Pugh, 65) Mulligan (sub Ndumbu-Nsungu, 65).

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken (sub Cousins, 46), Duguid, McGreal (sub Devaux, 58), Connolly, Granville, Yeates, Guttridge, Jackson, McLeod, Lisbie, Platt. Unused subs: Wordsworth, Webb, Elito.

Referee: Mr Clive Penton

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